I think I talk a lot about how breakfast works in our family. Weekend breakfast is a leisurely affair – often involving something hot + a decaf latte for me. But breakfast during the week is a military operation with everyone knowing what they like and liking what they know. #1 teenage son likes his Bran Flakes (no matter how much I nag at him that it’s not ‘the food of champions’ … his words not mine. Although I wish Chris Hoy would get off the packet – he’s not helping my case at all.) Hella will enjoy a Weetabix or two, regular milk + a bit of sugar – and ‘more than a bit’ of sugar if nobody is watching. My lovely husband enjoys his Everyday Healthy Cereal with soya milk (Waitrose, slightly sweetened) + a few blueberries on the top.
But #2 teenage son and I are more rock n roll about breakfast than the rest of the family. We both like to mix it up a bit depending on our mood. For #2 teenage son it might be Bran Flakes, but equally it could be Weetabix and sometimes he may even live on the edge with a slice or two of toast. There are some things that remain constant for him though. If there’s milk involved it will be soya milk (Waitrose, slightly sweetened) and there will always be a book strategically positioned by his bowl/plate – you never want to miss an opportunity to read a chapter or two now do you?. And the soundtrack to this breakfast scene will mostly be me saying (sternly), “Put. The. Book. Down.” Things you never thought you’d hear yourself say.
For me, mixing it up at breakfast is all about toppings. I enjoy a bit of cereal at breakfast. I also like a yoghurt every now and then. But what I especially love is a topping to liven up my cereal or my porridge or my yoghurt. And I do like to ring the changes. Blueberries work for me. Strawberries do too. A banana is great when it’s at optimum ripeness – no green, but equally no brown. But most of all, I enjoy something fruity that’s been cooked to bring out all the flavour and to produce a gorgeous, syrupy sauce.
Now let’s return to #2 teenage son for a moment. He LOVES his fruit. Always has done. Pre-school, we would sit and have lunch together, and if there was a choice, he would opt for a fruit salad every time. And an episode of the very tragic, Des and Mel come to think of it. His taste in TV has moved on, I’m relieved to say. But his love for fruit and fruit salad remains. He is at his lunchtime happiest when his lunchbox contains majority fruit and his snack of choice when we’re out and about is often still a fruit salad. Maybe he was a gorilla in a former life. But come to think of it, he’s not a great banana fan. Strike the gorilla theory.
Plums are a particular favourite of his and he will demolish a fruit bowl piled high with them. No drama. But you know how it is …. sometimes plums promise the world but taste like the pits – dry, cotton woolly, utterly tasteless – and when this happens they do often hang around for a while. Bring on these Roasted Plums with Vanilla Sugar.
Do you remember how I talked about how by roasting tomatoes you can coax some flavour out of even the dullest, most lack-lustre of the crop? Well the same applies to plums. Sprinkle them with a bit of brown sugar – here I added the heavenly scrapings from a vanilla pod to the sugar to create my ‘vanilla sugar’ (but no drama if it’s just regular sugar) – and then I roasted them in the oven until the fruits were soft and juicy and they had produced their own stunning, pink syrup. The texture becomes perfect too – moist and juicy – nothing whatsoever on the cotton wool spectrum.
It’s worth sharing that on my first attempt at Roasted Plums with Vanilla Sugar, I popped them in the oven and then got on with cooking poached eggs for the family. Let’s just say that my mind was squarely off the plums and onto the eggs and I only remembered them when the acrid smoke from the oven started to interfere with my breathing. Thank heavens for baking parchment I say – or that would have been ‘another baking tray bites the dust’ for sure.
So, I love these Roasted Plums with Vanilla Sugar, and so does #2 teenage son. Now let’s see if we can convince you to join our club –
- This is an easy recipe. Oven on. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Cut the plums in half (removing the stones). Stir the vanilla into the sugar and sprinkle over the plums. Pop them in the oven. But be sure to set a timer – particularly if there are poached eggs involved.
- And they look so pretty too.
- Enjoy them while they are still warm with ice cream – vanilla would be the one for me.
- Once the plums are cold you can store them (and all the precious juices) in a sealed jar in the fridge. They will keep happily for up to a week and you can enjoy them straight from the fridge on your breakfast cereal or over some yoghurt. Or straight from the jar too, if nobody’s watching …
- A great thing to have on hand if you have visitors staying – it makes breakfast look really rather fancy I’d say.
There’s always some keen takers to demolish what I’ve been cooking once the photos are finished. I’ll give you one guess who was at the front of the queue this time?
So, the next time you have a few dodgy plums knocking about, give these Roasted Plums with Vanilla Sugar a try. Or just throw caution to the wind and buy some plums specially. Go on … live on the edge.
- 700g (1½ lbs) ripe plums - about 8
- 1 vanilla pod
- 75g (3oz) demerera sugar
- 100ml (4floz) water
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F (gas mark 4).
- Line a roasting tin with baking parchment so that it comes up the sides of the tin. If you screw up the paper before putting it into the tin, it is easier to get it to stay in the right place in the tin.
- Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Depending on the size of the plums you may want to cut them into quarters now.
- Measure the sugar into a small bowl.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla pod in half down its length. Using the blade of the knife, scrape out the tiny black seeds from the inside the pod and add them to the sugar. Now tip the water into the vanilla sugar and use a fork (or a small whisk) to mix everything thoroughly.
- Pour the sugary water over the plums and roast them in the oven for 30-45 minutes, basting the plums every now and then. You will know that the plums are ready when they are very soft to the touch and the juices have formed a wonderful syrup.